In summer there are some very trying days, ones when there is no breeze, no hint of air movement. There is an eerie silence except the muffled sounds of TV sets and the groaning ceiling fan. It is not a happy time for although there is a lot of time to do stuff, the inclination to anything is absconding. There is a headiness one experiences all throughout the day, as if a heavy meal was followed by too much sleep. The slightest sound of a baby wailing or a distant car alarm contributes disproportionately to one’s discomfort. But it is not the sad climate, or the emptiness of the environment that brings the most unpleasant of feelings. No, it is the all encompassing cloud of boredom which sheds gloom without remorse.
Holidays and weekends are often reserved for doing those things which menial tasks like earning one’s bread and butter come in the way of. So one makes a mental note of all the things that seem impossible from Monday to Friday and tries to cram them in the other two days of the week. Yet even with all the resolve and eagerness that can be mustered on such a climatically depressing day, little progress is made in the pursuit of personal goals. There is always a TV show repeat, B grade movie or extended sleep that get in the way. Take for example, the desire to read something decent. You single out a couple of books which seem interesting and are of course more intellectually rewarding than any other experience that you might find yourself indulging in. You begin reading one of these, a work of fantasy fiction. It’s good enough, well written with the usual acts of imagination which are required in the animation of vampires, trolls, wizards and elves. The plot is never unpredictable, the end always apparent. You read the book for knowing how the stereotypical hero shall rise from underdog to make his place in fictional history. The act of picking up any such book, however illustrious the author, begins with a most definite expectation of the experience.
If it is non fiction book, you begin to make a few allowances for the author as a result of your own choice in reading matter. One presupposes a strong influence and mention of the Western world and civilization in the content. If however the work is on India one finds the unavoidable reverence to religion. Each case presenting a problem in terms of being able to relate to the text. It is then that we must turn to science and choose the least obtuse of topics to strike that balance between intellectual rewards and boredom. Science is interesting but when it moves away from the context of daily life, for example the study of the mating behavior in Amazonian frogs; my attention span is tested. Especially with the knowledge that one could instead be consuming audio visual content which has historically given more pleasure per minute spent. This has become an increasing problem in the devouring of the written word: the time it takes to get a return on investment. While a video or even audio provide the luxury of fast forward, the book must be read to a certain point before it can be judged.
So how does one get back into that groove of seamless literature worship? How do you not get lost in that veritable buffet of books and savor one entire piece without regret or remorse for the time spent in doing so?Perhaps the answer lies in a general reduction of immediate expectation and the appreciation of more the distant rewards of knowledge and horizon broadening. After all in the reading of a book as in the act of seeing the world, it’s not what presents itself; but what the mind makes of it.